So NOW What Do We Do?
I want to write something amazing, healing and thoughtful. I want my words to make you feel better about everything. I want to use magical phrases that will make your mind rest, stop your thoughts from spinning and dispel your fear and anxious feelings of uncertainty.
But I don’t know which words I could use to accomplish that.
We are at an anxiety level that many of us have never felt before. Our brains are on high alert all of the time. What the hell do we do with all the fear, pain, anxiety, questioning, information, depression, health concerns? What the heck are we supposed to do with all the stress?
It is extremely important that you help your body to stay balanced. The persistent tension will wear you out mentally and physically. Your spirit will suffer. It doesn’t matter if you already feel worn down; you can always start taking better care of yourself. So, now what do we do?
FIRST, DEAL WITH THE STRESS. Then you can take care of everything else.
Stop and Breathe Any time you feel anxiety or stress, stop and breathe. You can practice this right now. Put one hand on your stomach, right below your rib cage. You want your stomach to rise when you breathe deeply; your hand will help you determine if it is. Now, breathe in through your nose and you want to see your hand rise. If your chest rises, you aren’t getting the breath in deeply enough. Then let the air out through your mouth. Empty the air out completely and your hand should go down. Do this three times. This is an extremely powerful technique. You will be sending oxygen to every cell in your body, including your brain. Don’t underestimate this simple strategy. Make it a habit, and watch how well it works.
Accept all of your feelings as valid. Read that again. Accept all of your feelings as valid. Anything you are feeling is normal under these conditions. Sadness, grief, frustration, anger, despair, anxiety, depression, fatigue: these are all normal feelings. Do not judge yourself, do not berate yourself, do not call yourself names. If the feelings get to be too much, reach out for support. If you don’t have a person to talk to, write it all down. Get it out of your head.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. There are more opportunities to do this than you may think.
You don’t have to read or listen to news about COVID-19, every minute of every day. Most of the news is guesswork anyway. As states begin to reopen, you will need to know what is going on in your area. Anything else, at this point, is a waste of energy. It is meant to scare us and keep us coming back for more fear. Haven’t you had enough?
Stop talking to negative people who upset you whether it is on the phone, FaceTime, whatever. Just because we are all going through this pandemic together, does not mean you now tolerate verbal abuse or manipulative behavior. If you are living with a person who upsets you with negative thinking, don’t use your energy to try to change them. Change you. Change your reactions. Change the setting by going to another room.
Do your best to eat mostly healthy foods. This is more difficult for some people than others. Again, do your best, and don’t berate yourself for what you can’t control. Do your best to keep your body as strong as possible right now.
Distract yourself. This can be very healthy for you physically and mentally. Cleaning, decluttering, sorting and throwing away junk can feel satisfying and is a great way to take your mind from worry. Concentrate on tasks that you can control, projects that you can finish. Movies, books and podcasts can give our brains a much-needed rest.
HAVE SOME FUN. We can acknowledge the hugeness of an international epidemic and still have fun.
If you are able, MOVE! Movement is one of the best ways to reduce stress after deep breathing. Dancing, yoga, or walking can help you to calm your body and will distract you while you are doing it. You need nothing but your body.
Do something creative even if you don’t think you are creative. Drawing, coloring, or even Play-Doh with the kids are all wonderful stress reducing activities. Paint a room, rearrange furniture, write letters to people or learn to cook. Step out of what by now is a repetitive and possibly boring routine. Change it.
Laugh. This is how we can hold on and protect our spirits in the face of this unprecedented experience. Laugh every single day, even if it’s forced. (Seriously.) Look for humor. Watch funny shows and movies. Choose laughter.
BE KIND. This is the time to rise up and be the good human you were meant to be. Be kind to yourselves, be kind to your family, and be kind to strangers. You have no idea what someone else is dealing with because of, or in addition to the pandemic. Be a good human. We are all connected and this experience is bringing that fact home in a way that we never expected.
We will get through this. You will get through it. You are strong enough, you are smart enough and you are resilient enough.
So take one step, then the next, and you will make it. One day at a time. And you will be okay.
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